CFOs could count the cost of losing alienated digital talent

Empowering digital talent in finance roles is not enough, and CFOs need to nurture a sense of belonging among alienated staff before they quit or move on

Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) must build a strong sense of belonging for digital talent working in finance functions or risk losing them, says Gartner. 

Digital talent - defined by Gartner as “individuals with the experiences and competencies required to drive digital finance transformation and operate in a digital environment” - does not have the same priorities as those working in core finance roles and often feel alienated, which makes them more likely to be looking for other roles. 

“Finance functions can ill afford high rates of attrition in their digital talent, especially while many are on a journey towards autonomous finance,” says Marco Steecker, Director, Research in the Gartner Finance practice. “Understanding that digital talent has different motivators will help finance leaders to reduce churn.”

To help finance leaders with the challenge, Gartner says digital finance talent must see their values and priorities reflected in finance’s digital strategy. Employees also need to clarify long-term possibilities, which helps digital staff see a future place for themselves in the finance organisation.

Digital talent will be the biggest challenge for CFOs in 2023

Gartner says talent will be the top challenge facing CFOs in 2023 as attrition of digital employees in finance is high. Finance leaders typically address this by providing employees with the authority, confidence, and resources for digital finance talent to overcome their frustrations, an approach Gartner describes as “empowerment.”

But a survey of 202 digital finance staff carried out by Gartner in May this year suggests an empowerment strategy only goes so far, and leaders should be thinking about how to create a sense of belonging among digital workers. 

“Finance leaders who try to build a sense of empowerment for their digital talent tend to offer things such as increased managerial support and greater freedom to execute on digital projects and new initiatives,” says Steecker. “This does reduce the frustrations experienced by digital talent, but it can also create a sense of alienation from the rest of the finance department.”

Moving a digital finance employee from a low to a high sense of empowerment has a significant impact on retention, but going further than that doesn’t appear to have a similar impact, as empowerment benefits are offset by increased feelings of alienation.

“Empowerment is still an important factor in retaining digital talent and getting the best from them,” says Steecker. “But leaders should be aware that once they have empowered their digital employees, they also need to watch out and manage for the possibility that those employees may begin to feel alienated and distant from the department as a whole.”

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